Sleep deprived. Ecstatic from sugar highs and the promise of what was to be a very very super-dooper fun day out. Deranged because of all the catching up (breath and story-telling) and also deranged anyway because that was kind of how we rolled. You’ll see what I mean as I go on to share the rest of my tale…
So beginning from the end of part 1. We had made it to Venice; lots of people on steps, lots of people on boats, basically lots of people everywhere. For anyone who hasn’t visited this city before, I would recommend getting yourself a map (vital step one) and highlighting the places you’d like to visit first – from what I can remember we nabbed ourselves one (for FREE!!) inside the train station, which was tourist friendly and already had circled where we wanted (or rather were obliged) to go.
Step 2 would probably be to now head away from the train station, and the boat stop – and to just keep walking (and weaving) until you find yourself in a street where you don’t feel your private space being invaded. Then make your way towards the circle on your map.
I may have exaggerated a little. I think the crankiness and my erratic state of mind that morning might have made me visualise more packs of people than there were. That’s right, I said it. PACKS.
Point being, if you’re like me, and don’t fend too well with crowds (particularly those armed with giant over-the-top/used-once digital cameras and canary yellow audio guides) I would recommend just
barging through with brute force Rambo-style sucking it up and winding your way through, until you find yourself in a peaceful corner, or side street, where you’re able to get your map out (not just folds). There you can take your leisurely time and start plodding to your first destination. That’s what we did, and I’m all the more grateful for it. Too much of today’s hustle and bustle makes for boring people and tedious stories. If you charge about going from one spot to the next with headphones on and with only ‘the main attractions’ (or rather, that perfect Instagram setting) in your sights, how are you ever going to appreciate the place itself? One thing I love love LOVE to do when I travel is **cliché** take everything in: the sights, the smells, the feel for the city. No place is the ever the same as another. And you can’t take in all it has to offer if you refuse to just stop, look up and around or just slow the pace a little to catch a moment.
So in this case, here we find ourselves, myself and dear companion Dobby, stood in our gourmless travel-weary stance, worn-in Vans ready for action and heading to the first stop, San Marco Square.
Smells: Baked goodness – I don’t care what it is: pizza, calzone, panini, everyday buns or the Venitian version of a humble cheese & onion slice – whatever it is, it smells amazing and it’s giving me life.
Sights: Something I love
d about Italy in general, and what I wish London had a bit more of, is the old-time architecture. The faded walls which still remain pretty, postcard-worthy and charming in their appearance, and paved streets of historic stone, which unlike those in my ends, were not gritty (nor gum-filled). These little details just made it all the more enamoring a place, which was at that moment, filled with locals and tourists, munching on afternoon delights (aforementioned baked goods; and NOT the kind you’d find in Greggs either).
The plan was to see as much of Venice as we could in a day, (and of course fit in a big meal + bottle of wine in this time). Our train back to Bologna was due to leave at around 6pm from what I remember – this gave us just over 6 hours to explore. A good amount of time to see all the main attractions without rushing. I am picturing (with disdain) how some express day-trips can turn out: on-the-go sarnies and the Countdown theme in the background as you whiz desperately around the city.
The first time I came to Venice (post coming soon!), I was fortunate enough to arrive on the day of Carnivale. The city on this particular day was, without exaggerating, JAM PACKED and actually because of the sheer crowd density, we weren’t able to reach San Marco square, where the main event was taking place. A shame, but that’s what you get for arriving partied out/still jet-lagged, and in any case, I’m sure I will make the effort to see it in the future.
There is a point to my rambling. It was at this moment, as we were being swept through the crowds, that I took into consideration how tiny Venetian streets become. It’s like a labyrinth of charming windy streets, which gives reason as to why it’s often referred to as the tourist maze. However, in and around corners of said maze, you will find yourself at the entrance of a quaint open piazza, or a small bridge passing over a canal. And that’s one of the other things I love about Venice.
On this day in particular Dobby and I had achieved what I could not on Carnival day: we made it to our circle on the map. Making our way down the teeny tiny (yet oh so perfect and picturesque) streets and also making a few stops across big and small bridges (a couple of shameless selfies en-route), there we were.
Piazza di San Marco. Quite impressive. Understatement much.
“Well that’s just lovely isn’t it?”
“Let’s take a picture”
I know it sounds stupid, but I never really thought of Venice as an island, which it more or less is. As the train pulls into Santa Lucia, it’s basically a track from mainland to port. The city is practically surrounded by water, and this makes for remarkable views.
The basilica of San Marco stands proudly by the vast square, which gives off a kind of pristine air about the place: everything is white and the constrast of the blue water behind it provides a dramatic backdrop for the whole scene.
“It would be a delightful place to take lunch”
*Attempts cheeky and suggestive face which turns out to be more leary and terrifying*
Instead of ignoring my ghastly expression, Dobby embraces my enthusiasm for spontaneity and love of lunch (and all mealtimes, really), and in return throws me a funny face herself *N.B. this means lunch is ooOORN.
We amble towards some fancy-looking tables (red tablecloths and more than one set of cutlery laid out, you get me) which belonged to one of the restaurant terraces gracing the square.
BEFORE YOU SAY IT – I don’t know what we were thinking (and this was pre-bubbly wine). Rule No. 1 in tourist code: Restaurants located in the town square = approx 10x more £££ than others elsewhere in the city. This is just common sense, and it soon became apparent to the both of us, after perusing the leather-bound menu (Rule 1. section A in tourist code – avoid restaurants with flags on their menus; this usually means you’ll be handing over a few bob extra). Anything with an English translation I usually try to steer clear of – you’re there to enjoy the local food, be brave and ask for the special!
“So if I ordered calamari as a starter, how much would that make each squid? ”
“At least we’ve already paid for our return ticket LOL”
Okay let’s not do this.
We took it upon ourselves to do a little more exploring. Not for other places of interest though; more places of eatery. Food had been mentioned and our (rumbly) stomachs had heard us. We were on the look-out.
I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of the restaurant we ended up in – actually it was a wine bar – how perfect?! But after doing a bit of research (20 mins studying Google Maps and reliving the walk in a ravenous haze) I found it – Vinevia all’Amarone. It was located down a small side street (Calle Sbanchesini) and away from all the madness, and extortionate prices…
As luck would have it (it’s still early on in the story) there was an offer on that we found hard to refuse (it involved a bottle of house prosecco in an ice bucket and I forget the rest. Basically sold itself.
“Well this is all rather fancy!”
Dobby exclaimed with glee. I looked around our dainty wooden table and the captivating setting which surrounded us.
“To being ladies that
*Both clink glasses enthusiastically and sip/gulp a lot of bubbly*
“I. Am. About. This life. Show me the menu and keep the vino flowing”
And that’s how we got to the third and final part of my story…